Title: Most Decadent Diet Ever
Author: Devin Alexander
230 pages; Soft cover PhotographyColor
Publisher: Broadway Books, NY, NY 2008
Reviewed by, Chef John V. Fall 2008

The review---

Who ever said that "diet food" doesn't taste or look good? For many years, there have been numerous cookbooks about dieting. Low carb, sugar free, whole grain, low fat, it goes on and on and I'd bet a 3 year old could even name 10 or so more titles.

The Most Decadent Diet Ever by Devin Alexander is a beautiful and sensible cookbook. The pictures alone make you want to try the recipes. The book has a nice opening chapter with de rigueur information . The following pages have a nice layout, the recipes are easy to read and all the nutritional information is included. I like the quality of the suggested ingredients and the taste combination of the dishes. I am happy to see that someone actually thought about the taste of the finished recipes. Believe it or not, not all cookbooks have good tasting recipes!

One recipe we tried was Zucchini Boats with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes on page 175. It was really easy to make: cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, brush with oil and garlic and bake a little, and then top with goat cheese and tomatoes. When it finished baking and then was eaten our taster couldn't believe how good it was! The healthy Club Sandwich still had bacon and 3 slices of bread, so what was the healthiness component? Well lite, lower fat, bread and only 1 tablespoon of lite mayo made It'sensible! The big hit was the recipe for skinny shrimp on page 157--a very large portion size of about 5 ounces of shrimp in the olive oil and butter white wine parsley sauce was only 207 calories and had 7 grams of fat. This is something that would satisfy an ironworker!

The bottom line, this is a very good book and yes you might buy this because you are on a diet and need some new cooking ideas. I'd recommend that you buy the book and recondition your brain to have new thoughts about diet and healthy eating. Devin Alexander has done a good job and everyone who loves good tasting food will benefit from her work!

Recipes tested---

Healthy Club Sandwich

Any time I see a club sandwich, I think of my mother. When I was a kid, my mom always ordered them, while I ordered chicken parmesan sandwiches wherever we were. At the time, I never got the appeal of a club-why would one eat turkey, when you could be eating something fried and dripping with cheese? Now I love them. Back then, I found it fascinating that my mother could eat just one or two quarters as her entire meal. These days, I often eat just two quarters, but I always eat them with a small salad or follow them with a piece of fruit or some On-the-Terrace FruIt'salad (page 222). 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Just before the bacon is cooked, toast the bread slices until lightly toasted on both sides. Then place them side by side on a clean work surface. Spread 1'/2 teaspoons mayonnaise on the first and third slices of bread. Place the lettuce and then the tomato on the first slice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top evenly with half of the turkey. Top that with the bare slice of bread. Add the remaining turkey, followed by the bacon. Place the remaining slice of bread atop the sandwich. Secure the sandwich layers together by piercing them through the top bread slice with 4 decorative toothpicks placed in a diamond pattern so they go all of the way through the sandwich. Use a serrated knife to cut the sandwich diagonally into 4 triangles (a toothpick should be securing each quarter). Serve immediately.

2 slices center-cut bacon, cut in half
3 slices light wheat bread
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 romaine lettuce leaf
4 slices Roma tomato Salt and pepper
5 ounces thinly sliced extra-lean roasted turkey or extra-lean shaved deli turkey

Place a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 3-4 minutes.

Skinny Scampi
4 Servings

Shrimp may be the perfect "diet food." Even if it were fattening, I'd consider eating it. Couple it with fresh garlic, my favorite seasoning, and how can you go wrong? Whatever you do, when you start preparing this recipe, make sure you have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go before adding the wine and lemon juice to the pan. Though it's always recommended that you prep everything in advance, it's not always key. Here, it definitely is or the wine and lemon juice will evaporate while you're off measuring-not only could it be detrimental to the taste, but you could easily burn your pan.

Also, notice that the shrimp are cooked in batches. It's important not to cut corners on that. Overcrowding the pan will not yield the same better-than-at-your-local-restaurant results.

1 1/4 pounds medium (31-40 count) shrimp, peeled (tails left on) and deveined
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste Black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons light butter (stick, not tub)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, put in half of the shrimp. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are just pink on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Add half of the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are lightly browned on the outside and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a platter and cover to keep hot. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and garlic. Add them to the platter and cover.
Add the wine and lemon juice to the pan. When the liquid is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes, turn the heat to low and add
the butter and 1 tablespoon parsley. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the butter is melted completely, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and toss well, then garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Boats with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 8 Boats; 4 Servings

I love to add sun-dried tomatoes to my salads or veggie dishes like this one for a flavor punch. Whatever you do, don't buy the ones that are packed in oil. Other varieties are sold either in airtight bags or in bulk. If they're soft when you buy them, simply add them to your dishes. If they're not soft, it's easy to soften them to prepare them for your recipe.
Just bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Stir in the tomatoes, and then turn off the heat. Let them sit in water, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain them and they're ready to go.
If you can find it in your area, you can use light goat cheese in this recipe. Because it's not highly prevalent throughout the country, I wrote this recipe using the full-fat variety. Light goat cheese will save you another 33 calories and
3 grams of fat per serving.

4 small zucchini
Olive oil spray
2 pinches of salt
2 pinches of black pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
3 1/4 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons rehydrated chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Run the tip of a tablespoon down the center of each half, scraping out a shallow layer of the seeds. Lay the zucchini side by side, skin side down, on a small nonstick baking sheet and lightly mist each shell with spray. Sprinkle each zucchini half evenly with salt and pepper. Next, sprinkle the garlic evenly among them. Bake for 16 to 19 minutes, until tender. Sprinkle the goat cheese crumbles evenly over the zucchini, followed by the sun-dried tomatoes. Bake for another 4 to 6 minutes, or until the cheese is just barely starting to melt. Sprinkle the tops evenly with the basil, about 1/2 teaspoon each. Serve immediately.